Hundred-Year-Old Rosy Macaroni Recipe


When I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Rosy Macaroni, I just had to give it a try. It’s really macaroni and cheese made with canned tomato soup, and some celery and onions thrown in for good measure, as well as tiny amounts of ground cloves and paprika.

The tomato soup added a new dimension to the macaroni and cheese – and I loved the crunchiness that the celery added to the dish. Rosy Macaroni definitely falls into the comfort food category, though I must admit that I find it slightly disappointing that commercially canned soups have been available for more than a hundred years.

Here’s the hundred-year-old recipe:

Source: American Cookery (April, 1917)
Source: American Cookery (April, 1917)

The murky language of old recipes is often challenging. The nuanced language differentiating between a “dust” of ground cloves and a “pinch” of soda was particularly confounding. When I updated the recipe, I went with 1/8 teaspoon for both ground cloves and baking soda – but I’m I probably not exactly replicating the original recipe for either ingredient.

And, I started with a box  of macaroni containing the typical 1-inch pieces. (Macaroni must have looked very different a hundred years ago if it needed to be broken into short pieces.) I also stirred the cooked macaroni into the tomato sauce rather than making them separate layers since it was easier – and it seemed like there would be little difference in the end product.

Here’s how I updated the recipe for modern cooks:

Rosy Macaroni

  • Servings: 5 - 7
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 cups macaroni

3 tablespoons  butter + 1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons corn starch

1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 can condensed tomato soup

1/2 soup can of water

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded



Preheat oven to 350° F.  Fill a large sauce pan 2/3’s full of water, bring to a boil using high heat. Stir in the macaroni, and reduce heat to medium so that the water just simmers. Cook until the macaroni is al dente (about 6 – 8 minutes). Remove from heat and drain. Rinse with cold water to prevent the macaroni from sticking together, drain again.

Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet using low heat. Add the corn starch and stir until smooth. Stir in the onion, celery, cloves, and baking powder. Add the tomato soup and water; stir until smooth. Stir in the cooked macaroni, then increase heat to medium while continuing to stir. When hot remove from heat.

In the meantime, melt one tablespoon butter using low heat in a small skillet. Stir in the bread crumbs. Increase heat to medium and stir continuously for 2-3 minutes to lightly toast the crumbs. Remove from heat.

Place 1/3 of the macaroni mixture in a buttered  1 1/2- quart casserole dish, then put 1/2 of the cheese on top of it and sprinkle with salt and paprika. Repeat, ending with the macaroni mixture. Top with the buttered bread crumbs.

Put in oven and bake until hot and bubbly (20-30 minutes).

73 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Rosy Macaroni Recipe

  1. This sounds very like meals my mom would make for us. I don’t use canned soups anymore so would have to figure out how to replace that. Maybe with tomato sauce and cream? These are fun recipes to read and think about!

    1. hmm. . . I think that tomato sauce and cream would work nicely. It’s nice to hear that you enjoy these recipes. In my opinion, half the fun of recipes is thinking about how to adapt them

  2. I too followed the recipe for a while and then wildly abandoning it for outer space. Now I see you have scientifically noted your changes. Too late now, but truly enjoyed our Rosey Red Pasta meal

  3. Interesting recipe. Looks very tasty!
    I’ve never paired cloves with pasta, but I like like the idea of adding a bit to the sauce. The addition of baking soda is also interesting. I guess it was used to balance the acidity of the soup.
    As for breaking the pasta, I think the recipe refers to older versions of macaroni pasta, that were almost as long as spaghetti, but thicker and with a bigger hole in them.

    1. I learn so much for you. I had no clue why baking soda was in included in the recipe, but now that you say it, it makes perfect sense that the soda might be used to reduce the acidity. In more modern recipes it seems like sugar is often used to mask the acidity. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen the older version of macaroni.

      1. Yes, by now sugar is added to most tomato sauces/soups. Sometimes way too much to my liking..

        As for the pasta – here’s a quote from Wikipedia that explains it: “In North America, the word “macaroni” is often used synonymously with elbow-shaped macaroni,[citation needed] as it is the variety most often used in macaroni and cheese recipes.[3] In Italy, the noun maccheroni refers to straight, tubular, square-ended pasta corta (“short-length pasta”). Maccheroni may also refer to long pasta dishes such as maccheroni alla chitarra and frittata di maccheroni, which are prepared with long pasta like spaghetti.”

        1. Thanks for the info. If I think about it, I know that it says “elbow macaroni” on the box, but I hadn’t really considered that “macaroni” without the adjective refers to something different.

    1. I also was intrigued by the inclusion of cloves. The recipe called for such small amount of cloves that I couldn’t really taste it in the finished dish.

  4. I’d never heard about Rosy Macaroni, but funny, I was watching a Food Network show this morning and they showed a recipe for a buffalo macaroni and cheese that was somewhat similar.

    1. Wow, it’s amazing that a Food Network show had a similar recipe. It’s nice to hear that you like the header. I still use photos of the farm where my grandmother lived when she was a teen-ager in memory of the years when I posted her diary on this site. I have photos of that farm for all of the seasons–and rotate them over the course of the year. Your comment makes me realize that spring will be here soon -and then I’ll need to use my spring picture of the farm. 🙂

  5. Makes me wonder just how long macaroni has been around.. I’m eaten lots of this dish ..we just didn’t call it rosy. 🙂 and I never used cloves that was a new ingredient.

    1. The name makes the dish seem special. 🙂 I also was surprised that the recipe called for cloves – though the amount called for is so small that it didn’t affect the taste very much.

  6. Yum this looks really good! I would have never though to combine tomatoes soup with macaroni and cheese. This will be added to my must try of your recipes. Hugz Lisa and Bear

  7. As I mentioned above, I’d substitute Amy’s organic tomato bisque. I grew up on tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, so the combination of tomato and cheese makes perfect sense to me. This sounds like a good one — although I think I’d increase the celery and onion a bit.

  8. I wonder if the “dusting” just meant a sprinkle? Some things, like comfort foods, just don’t change with time, do they? What people liked 100 years ago still gives enjoyment today. I’m giving this a try! Thank you for another recipe!

    1. Could be – People a hundred years ago definitely ate more unprocessed foods than what we do now, though I’m often surprised by how many commercially-prepared foods were available in 1917.

  9. Cloves is used in Cincinnati Chili. which was created by Greek cooks. Whenever you see spice island spices such as cloves, allspice, and cinnamon used with tomato sauce that has it’s roots in Eastern European Mediterranean cooking. This is because the Silk and Spice Trade Routs came through there.

    1. Interesting . . . I learned something new. It’s fascinating how, even with a basic comfort food, people adjusted it based upon their background and heritage.

  10. I’d like to say that we have the French to blame for canned food, and that’s partially true. We do have them to blame for the cans, but unfortunately we are to blame for the stuff we put in those cans. Canned food and France is fantastic! They put amazing food in cans!

    1. Interesting. . . I’m now curious about canned food in France. Your comment makes me want to explore the foods in a grocery store if I ever get to France. I won’t have guessed that canned foods there would be much different from canned foods in the US.

      1. I hope you’re able to do that. You’ll be so surprised to find out that they put delicious foods in cans. For instance, we pack tuna fish in water, plain. They pack it in lemon, tomato, garlic, interesting oils … all kinds of flavors. And it’s delicious, high quality tuna.

  11. As this is clearly a very old recipe. It is exactly what I’m after for my blog. Obviously I need heat which I plan to do by gas only as it is the closest thing to having a naturally fire powered cook top. My blog centres around making the pasta of course but going further by making cheese if at all possible. Do you happen to know of a recipe for cheddar cheese?

    1. Hmm. . . I’ve seen recipes for soft cheese’s like farmer’s or cottage, but I don’t think that I’ve ever seen an old recipe for cheddar cheese. My sense is that hard cheese’s like cheddar were typically purchased – even a hundred years ago.

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